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A Young Sicilian’s Start in Filmmaking at Boston University

Nigro Famulari (right) with fellow BU students walking in Siracusa.

When Pietro Nigro Famulari came to Boston in 2008, he had just begun developing a passion for filmmaking. Two years later, he was receiving an award at the Redstone Film Festival at Boston University and trying to make it in Hollywood.

“I owe so much to my experience in Boston,” says Nigro Famulari, a native of Siracusa, Sicily. Before coming to study for a master of fine arts degree at Boston University’s College of Communication, the young Italian director had never been to the United States, nor had he experimented in serious filmmaking.

Pietro Nigro Famulari (right) and crew filming in Siracusa, Sicily

“The experience gave me a lot of confidence and has transformed me into a director, a filmmaker.” As proof of his talent, the young director can now boast the second-place prize at BU’s annual Redstone Film Festival, which awards its students’ best film and documentary projects. “It’s a great opportunity,” says Nigro Famulari, “because thanks to this award, my film will be shown in New York on March 16 and Los Angeles on March 31.”

The 17-minute short film Nigro Famulari presented to the festival is Your way home, a thesis project he had been working on for over a year. The film is a day in the life of a young 11-year-old boy in Siracusa who is about to be transferred to yet another foster home. The film’s goal, he says, is to spotlight the problem of adoption and foster homes once children get older. “One of my best friends in Siracusa is adopted, and I have always felt compelled to tell the story of adopted children.”

The crew and young actor Mirko di Mauro (front) taking a break.

The project was entirely filmed in Siracusa, with the help of fellow students Trevor K. Taylor, Andrea Rosas Ferro, Dimitri Kouri, Stephen Ohl, Jeffrey Stallman and Kathy Lee. “I strongly wanted for Pietro to film in Sicily,” says BU Professor Mary Jane Doherty, who followed and guided Nigro Famulari through the entire thesis project. “For me it’s more than just showcasing a place. Location is one of the most important ingredients in filmmaking. The place produces the story.”

Indeed, Your way home’s central location is an extraordinary little beach corner nearby Siracusa that Nigro Famulari and his friends had discovered not too long ago. “The place is known as Plemmirio,” he says. “It is a beautiful space, but when we got there to start filming, we had to clean up quite a bit of trash.” Spurred by the sudden attention to the place, Legambiente (Italy’s largest environmental group) moved in after the filming and took matters into its own hands. “I guess some good came out of it,” he says.

In all, the filming in Siracusa took ten days, and Nigro Famulari’s American colleagues stayed in Sicily for three weeks, helping him with the casting process. “I went to a local school to select the main protagonist,” he recalls. In the end, the choice fell on Mirko Di Mauro, 11 at the time, who showed a natural inclination to acting.

Once the filming was done, Nigro Famulari and his colleagues headed back to Boston, where all the editing and producing took place. “I was on a very tight schedule,” Nigro Famulari recalls. “I had to leave in August for my last semester of school, with a few internships in Los Angeles. So we got a first version done by the end of summer, although the definitive one was done in December, when I came back to Boston to put the finishing touches on it and submit it to the Redstone Film Festival.”

“I was very proud of Pietro,” says Professor Doherty. “He is one of the few students that has been able to stay on track with his timetable and is also one of the few that I’ve seen really understanding the poetry that goes into making short films.” Doherty has been teaching at BU for 21 years.

Now Pietro has completed his degree and has moved out west to Los Angeles, where he hopes to start a career as a director. “I would have stayed in Boston because I liked it so much, but filming opportunities are not as many as out here,” he says. “I like it in Los Angeles, but I’m starting to think I will one day want to go back to Sicily and make a difference there.”

About Nicola Orichuia

Nicola is an Italian journalist and media enthusiast living in the United States. He keeps an eye on the Italian-American communities across the country and is always looking for positive stories to highlight.